Continuing a considerable legacy of working with the best names in Japanese fashion like Yohji Yamamoto, kolor, and White Mountaineering, adidas has now officially put pen to paper with cult brand Hender Scheme.
The result is three sans-Boost sneakers – the NMD, Micro Pacer and Superstar – made in Hender Scheme’s Japanese ateliers with the finest goat and cow leather. In the past, Hender Scheme made headlines for its high-quality, detailed reproductions of shoes like the Air Jordan IV and Nike Presto, but now the brand opens a new chapter, creating authentic Three Stripe products that release in September.
We sat down with Hender Scheme founder Ryo Kashiwazaki and Senior Design Director at adidas Originals, Erman Aykurt, to discuss the forthcoming release.
First, what does this collaboration achieve that would have otherwise been impossible?
Erman Aykurt: On the adidas side, we came together because of a desire to work in a more hands-on way, and embrace a real creator culture. Having a role model like Ryo-san who works through the construction of a new silhouette like the NMD, gave us a lot of cues and insight on how a traditional craftsman would approach the construction of a shoe like that. That was really beneficial. Both brands explore the idea of past and future, and try to bring iconic features to life, with different manufacturing techniques.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: Although the two brands work on different scales of business, and the process is different, I feel that Hender Scheme and adidas have a lot in common.
How did you decide to include the NMD in this collaboration?
Erman Aykurt: With this succession of sneakers, you have the Superstar, the Micro Pacer and the NMD, so you have three different expressions of iconic adidas design language over the decades. All these silhouettes became iconic outside of sports, and therefore they have lifestyle relevance, which is the value that Ryo-san is picking up on.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: The NMD is the current most iconic model from adidas, my idea was to build the sole stabilizers with leather, I really wanted to try this out.
The NMD is extremely big in Europe, is it also popular in Japan?
Ryo Kashiwazaki: I would say so, yes.
How did the conversation start between Hender Scheme and adidas?
Erman Aykurt: In the adidas Tokyo office, our trend marketing department has a good relationship with Ryo-san, and this developed into more of a collaboration. It was really easy from there. It’s based a lot on mutual respect.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: Some of the adidas employees in Tokyo would come to us and buy some shoes, or some products, so we started a conversation.
If you had to choose a fourth shoe to add to the collaboration, what would it be?
Erman Aykurt: Roy-san came to Herzogenaurach in Germany, and we showed him around, and showed him some of the technology we’re working on, so hopefully this will later add to the main qualities that both brands have to offer. It was inspiring to walk with him through the adidas campus, and everyone knew him, from technicians to production; it made me feel good about this mutual respect.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: It’s a very difficult question, but currently what’s on my mind is to shift the manufacturing to adidas at some point, to use the facilities they have, and collaborate in that way. We want to combine Hender Scheme’s craftsmanship with the technology from adidas to create something new.
Did you ever talk about making accessories as well as footwear?
Erman Aykurt: Caps would be amazing. adidas is good at delivering quality, but we’re always inspired when another company takes it to another level.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: In the future. I would like to make some caps and bags. When I visited Herzogenaurach and saw the archives, I discovered that adidas started with handmade products, which surprised me.
Erman Aykurt: When we give tours of the archive, we always highlight the fact that Adi Dassler was really interested in how shoes behave when they are in use. He wanted to investigate the defects that occurred from wearing them in competition, and actual performance, and Ryo-san has a similar approach, as he is interested in how the shoes develop when they are in use.
From the three, which are you most proud of? Which was the hardest to realize?
Erman Aykurt: For me, the Micro Pacer is that one. It marks such an expression of technology from the past, and it’s something that is at the core of our design language explorations. Seeing that silhouette built in vegetable-tanned leather is amazing to me.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: The stabilizer in the NMD, this required a difficult technique. Something like this stabilizer has never existed for leather shoes.
Erman Aykurt: I’ve been working on footwear for 20 years, but hearing Ryo-san explain why he uses which leather for which part of the shoe is more than I could ever wish for from a teacher.
Ryo Kashiwazaki: I was also very inspired when I visited adidas, they have a big archive and a long, long history. Hender Scheme only started eight years ago. The history of adidas impresses me, I feel that adidas learns from their past, to invent something new. This is fascinating.
In a way, this collaboration mirrors the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration, in the way that a product starts as an homage or an imitation, and is later validated or legitimized. Would you agree?
Ryo Kashiwazaki: I think similar things happen in art or music, it’s a way to create something new, it’s a current way to validate. Japan in particular has this cultural imitation, and it’s quite common and established as a way of making things.
Erman Aykurt: I think there will be more of that. Collaborations are nothing new, it’s not a revolution, but we pride ourselves on having an open-source creator culture, and the actual collaboration only happens when you start talking and sharing ideas. If an homage-type product leads to a conversation, then I have no problem with homage products. For me, the important part is then the interaction.
Would this collaboration have been possible without past partnerships between adidas and Japanese brands like kolor and White Mountaineering?
Ryo Kashiwazaki: Open source is a key word I think. For example, I’m happy to see products that seem to be inspired by mine, because I see these natural leather sneakers in the market. This is not my idea, it’s just a material. We always update culture, it’s a work in progress.
Erman Aykurt: I spent three years in the adidas Tokyo office, working there, and all the local Tokyo brands invited us to the tenjikai (exhibition), and you might assume that everyone is protective over their intellectual property, but in Japan, the message seemed like we were more than welcome to take inspiration from their collections. Your position in the culture is dictated by the quality of your contributions.
Do you see any similarities between German and Japanese cultures?
Ryo Kashiwazaki: I find them similar, Germans are trustworthy and reliable. I’m very happy to have this relationship with Erman and adidas.
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